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Release: Aug. 17,2001

Close Enough jazz ensemble to present benefit concert Sept. 1

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Frank Conroy, Dan Nuno, David Skorton and Geb Thomas are well known for their disparate day jobs at the University of Iowa, but they share a separate passion by night -- their love for jazz, which led to the formation of a new band, Close Enough.

Together with Dan Moore and John Rapson, two full time musicians and UI School of Music faculty members, they will present a benefit concert for the university's Arts Share program, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Also appearing on the program will be Iowa Poet Laureate Marvin Bell, who will read from his latest book, "Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000," to open the performance.

The musical performance will be followed by a public reception in the lobby of Clapp Recital Hall. Artists affiliated with Arts Share will be present during the reception: Graduate artist Amze Emmons from the UI School of Art and Art History will work with the public to create a mural; students Mike Cassady, Sheila Franklin and Christopher Shover from the Department of Theatre Arts will perform; and members of Dancers In Company from the Dance Department will perform.

A program of the UI Division of Performing Arts, Arts Share provides artistic resources from the Iowa Center for the Arts to schools and community organizations across the state and throughout the region. Last year, the Arts Share roster included nearly 100 faculty and graduate students in music, theatre, dance, the visual arts and creative writing. Proceeds from the benefit will be used to establish an access fund that will make Arts Share programming affordable to Iowa schools in economically disadvantaged urban and rural communities in Iowa

The concert will feature Conroy, director of Iowa Writers' Workshop on piano; Skorton, UI vice president for research and interim vice-president for external relations on saxophones and flute; Rapson, the head of the UI jazz program, on trombone; Moore, the School of Music's percussion area head on drums; Nuno, a researcher from Internal Medicine on guitar; and Thomas from Industrial Engineering on bass.

While the school of music faculty members both have extensive professional jazz experience, the part-timers are no strangers to the performing scene. Conroy, a self-titled "semi-pro" musician, once had his own jazz quintet in the Boston area, and also took a gig as the regular Monday night piano player at the famous jazz haunt Bradley's in New York City. He has written major articles on jazz for the New York Times Magazine, People, GQ, Esquire and other publications.

Nuno has performed rock ,blues and jazz with a variety of Iowa City musicians. His early exposure to Latin rhythms has led him into jazz, as well as other popular musical styles that pervade contemporary life.

Skorton grew up in Los Angeles, surrounded by Latin music, and worked as a professional jazz and rhythm-and-blues musician in the Chicago area.

Thomas had a jazz band and made his own arrangements in high school and was a jazz major at Indiana University before switching to physics and industrial engineering. He's also performed as a street musician in Germany.

"The four of them were rehearsing together last Spring," Moore said. "They needed a drummer to complete the group and asked if I would play." In preparing for that gig, the quintet connected both musically and personally, Moore said, and they decided to form a combo that they named Close Enough.

After they had worked together for several months, they decided to put together a formal concert. "I discussed the idea of a concert with Mona Shaw, director of communications for the Division of Performing Arts, who suggested that we do something for Arts Share," Moore explained. "The group agreed and the date was set. John (Rapson) overheard us talking about it and said he'd like to be a part of it, too."

"Sometimes professional musicians lose sight of the reason they became musicians in the first place," Moore said "When you get a chance to play with people who are really excited about music it is very refreshing. Although these guys aren't full-time musicians, they all play very well and they are definitely excited about this music."

Expressing the excitement that Moore noticed, Nuno finds that the combination of music with his other professional activities is ideal. "What could be better?" he says. "Iowa City lets me be a lifelong student of the life sciences and sweet jazz music, too."

Skorton traced his longstanding devotion to jazz to his childhood. "I was first drawn to performing by the Latin-oriented jazz and pop music I heard growing up in Los Angeles," he said. "The things that keep me plugged in now are the joy of the rhythms and, most of all, the communication -- the connections with the composer through the sheet music, with the other musicians in the give-and-take of the group, and the internal dialogue of improvisation.

"Improvising on stage is terrifying, but it's also the best part of it all!"

Although Bell will not be playing with the jazz band, he notes that recently he was commissioned to write a chapter of a mystery novel in which a musician has been murdering the symphony conductors of Iowa. "In agreeing to do it," Bell said, "I pointed out that, while I'm not a fiction writer, I am a longtime trumpet player that has murdered many a high C."

The program for the Sept. 1 concert will include jazz standards as well as some not so standard tunes, The play list features "Blues in the Closet," "Autumn Leaves," "Blue in Green," "On the Trail," "Tokyo Blues," "Lover Man," "Song for My Father" and "All Blues."

Diane Kenney Handler, the director of Arts Share, said "It is so gratifying that seven of our most influential and active artists and university leaders are willing to support the Arts Share program, which helps bring the UI's arts resources to the people of Iowa.

"The concert, Bell's reading and the events in the lobby will show a small sample of the different arts areas that the program is able to share around the state -- music, theater, dance, the visual and literary arts."

Bell, who has been called "a maverick" and "an insider who thinks like an outsider," is the author of 17 books of poetry and essays. He has received the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia.

One of his collections, "Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See," was a finalist for the National Book Award. In March 2000 Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack named Bell the state's first poet laureate.

The Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters, Bell is a longtime member of the Writers' Workshop faculty. He has also taught at Goddard College and the Universities of Hawaii and Washington and has done numerous residencies at colleges and universities both as a Woodrow Wilson and Lila Wallace Fellow.

Bell reads, lectures and teaches widely and has been invited to read his poetry at the White House, the Guggenheim Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress. A graduate of the Writers' Workshop, he also holds a bachelor's degree from Alfred University and a master's degree from the University of Chicago.

Conroy joined the UI faculty in 1987, becoming the fifth director of the UI Writers' Workshop. Before his UI appointment, Conroy was director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, in Washington, D.C. In 1977-78, he served as visiting faculty member in the Writers' Workshop. He has also taught writing at a number of other universities, including M.I.T., American University, Brandeis University and George Mason University.

The Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Council for the Arts have awarded Conroy fellowships. In 1967, his autobiography, "Stop-Time," was nominated for a National Book Award. He received a Grammy Award in 1986 for liner notes for an album by Frank Sinatra.

Conroy is also the author of the short-story collection "Midair" and the novel "Body and Soul" (about a musician and composer) and the editor of "The Eleventh Draft," a book about the workshop process, and "The Iowa Award : The Best Stories from Twenty Years." His essays and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, the Partisan Review, Harpers, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times Magazine. Numerous anthologies include his short fiction.

An internationally known percussionist, composer and teacher, Moore has experience from concert to marching percussion, and from jazz to classical styles. Performing all aspects of percussion, including keyboard percussion, drum set, ethnic and multi-percussion, he is considered a "total percussionist."

As a soloist, Moore has developed a unique new style of marimba performance, using a MIDI set-up that allows him to create layers of electronically triggered and natural acoustic sounds. For the past 12 years he has toured as a member of the Britain/Moore Duo, whose CD "Cricket City" has been described by Pan-lime Magazine as "a brilliant collage of pan-marimba pieces."

Moore joined the UI music faculty in 1996. He is a performing artist for the Yamaha Corporation of America, Sabian Ltd., and Innovative Percussion. He has written for Jazz Player, Sticks and Mallets and Percussive Notes magazines.

Nuno has been on the UI's Internal medicine research staff since 1981, starting that year in the area of renal research and two years later moving on to do cardiovascular research with Melvin Marcus and later Kathryn Lamping. The focus of their research has been the regulation of blood flow in the heart in normal and disease states. Their laboratories have published extensively in numerous scientific journals and presented their work internationally.

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in August 1993. A recording artist for the Sound Aspects and Nine Winds labels, he is a composer and trombonist whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. His recent experimental jazz recording "Dances and Orations" has been hailed as "one of the most vital CDs to come around in a long time" in Jazziz and as "a conceptual and musical triumph" by Josef Woodard in the Independent. The CD scored 10 out of 10 for artistic merit in Grammophone magazine's "Good CD Guide" for jazz recordings, which also called it "beautiful and unique."

Previous albums under Rapson's direction are "Bing" for Sound Aspects, and "Buwah" and "Deeba dah bwee" for Nine Winds. He has also recorded "A Mingus Among Us" and "Been There, Done That" with Johnson County Landmark.

Skorton is vice president for research and interim vice president for external relations at the UI, where he oversees more than 30 administrative units. He holds joint appointments at the rank of professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering. During his 21 years at the UI, Skorton has founded and/or directed a major laboratory, a collegiate division, and an internationally recognized clinic. As a physician/researcher, he has published many scientific articles, reviews, book chapters, and two major texts, and he continues to see patients.

Skorton is actively engaged in community service in Eastern Iowa, including membership on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and past chair of the Iowa City Area Development Group and on the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce Priority One Advisory Committee. He also serves as co-chair of the Iowa Chapter of the Korea-America Friendship Society and the Board of the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Thomas is an assistant professor in the UI department of Industrial Engineering. His research interests are in the areas of human computer interaction, robotics and virtual reality. His projects include a series of mobile robot field trials with the NASA Ames Research Center developing tools and technology for the robotic exploration of Mars, developing the operator interface for Pioneer -- a robot designed to enter the damaged Chernobyl reactor -- and the development of robotic and virtual reality tools for health care.

Currently Thomas is working on demonstrating control strategies that would be useful in using multiple, cooperative, mobile robots to explore Mars, a synthetic breast with programmable, simulated tumors to train patients and doctors to accurately and reliably perform breast exams, and a solar powered camera to be used by volcanologists to monitor active volcanoes.

Thomas is an assistant editor of the journal PRESENCE, Teleoperators and Virtual Environments and served as the Chairman of the Virtual Environments Technical Group of the Human Factors Society. He directs the GROK Lab and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium's ESPRIT program.

Tickets for the Close Enough concert to benefit UI Arts Share are $25 and $50, and are available from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Tickets at $25 include a $15 tax-deductible contribution to the UI Division of Performing Arts Venture Fund through the UI Foundation; $50 tickets include a $40 contribution and premium seating.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's site on the World Wide Web: <>.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.